Recently, I wrote about how to attract candidates to less-than-stellar job opportunities. One of the keys I mentioned was promoting your great employee benefits.
If you’re like many of the small business owners I meet, you may be thinking: We can’t afford fancy benefits!
That’s not entirely true, and the following list proves it. Instead of expensive benefits packages, this list focuses on perks that employees love — and that you can start offering right away.
If you think you have nothing or very little to offer your applicants, you need to read this:
1. Flexible Schedules
Flexible work is desired by workers across generations, and it’s easier to implement than most managers or HR pros are willing to admit. Begin with flexible start and end times, and go from there.
A great option for parents coming back from leave and those who want to contribute to the workforce but aren’t yet ready to give 40 hours a week (and maybe never will be). This is a fantastic way to keep employees who are considering going solo on board, as it gives them more time to spend with their families and pursue their hobbies.
3. Work-From-Home Hours
Working from home has never been easier to do — or, for your micromanagers, to track. Thanks to video onboarding and online intranets where everyone can check in and out, it is dead simple to make working from home a reality in your company.
If you’re not ready to go whole hog, try it for one day a week, then two, then three. Also important to note: This particular benefit can be a money-saver. If you shut down the office for a few days a week, you’ll pay less on utilities and other office-related costs.
4. Free or Low-Cost food
The cost of granola bars, gum, beverages, and fresh fruit is nothing compared to the money you’ll save by keeping employees happy and engaged. Whether you run a blue-, grey-, or white-collar workplace, you may have staff members for whom a 79-cent granola bar every day can make a real difference. If employees can take home food when money is tight, so much the better. Even if your employees don’t need the food, chances are they’ll appreciate this very low-cost benefit.
5. Rides to Work
I recently spoke with a client who was about to write up a large group of women from a certain department. Seemingly inexplicably, they’d all started coming in chronically late. Until we investigated, no one realized the city buses and the school districts nearby had changed some of their scheduling, throwing these ladies’ lives into total disarray. A 15-minute-later school start time combined with the city bus schedules made it nearly impossible for them to get to work on time.
Instead of writing these employees up, the company instituted a shuttle service and altered their schedules. Performance, attrition, and employee stress? All solved with a $75 per day solution.
6. No Dress Code
I know a recruiter who stated in his job ad that people could wear what they wanted to work. He was overrun with applications.
Think about it: You’re looking for a job, so money is understandably tight. When you finally get a job at, say, a restaurant, you are told to show up for work in a uniform of black polo and crisp chinos with black non-skid shoes. That getup, along with being ugly, will set you back at least $70, and that’s before your first shift. Screw that.
7. No Phone Work
I hate talking on the phone. I can do it, but I hate it. Many of the younger generations hate it, too! If you can offer people a job where they won’t have to chat on the phone ever, they might just stay with you for life.
8. All Phone Work
That said, some people could jabber the day away. Instead of sticking them in a cubicle, try offering Bluetooth headsets so they can wander, or offer them exercise balls so they can move during their eight-hour shifts.
9. No Computer Skills
My parents can’t figure out how half their electronics work, but they are two of the smartest people I know. Discounting those who lack tech savvy is simply a stupid move.
There are countless positions you can offer to people who don’t love computers: editing, writing, answering phones, greeting customers, mentoring workers, etc. Plus, offering these gigs will allow you to tap into talent pools you competitors are overlooking.
10. Open Offices
Sometimes people need to move around. In our offices, we have a living room area, a gaming area, shared desks, private offices, a standup bar, a cycling desk, and even more workspace configurations, all of them open to everyone.
11. Private Offices
On the other hand, a private space where an employee can work uninterrupted is a benefit many would love to have.
Only have a few private office spaces? Institute a rotating schedule, or use them as rewards. A perk for employees of the month, maybe?
12. Lots of Coworker Interaction
No matter your workforce, you likely have a mix of introverts, extraverts, and ambiverts. The latter two will want lots of interaction with their coworkers. Offer this, and you may beat out those competitors whose offices are silent as tombs.
13. Little or No Coworker Interaction
Some people want to spend their entire day working with no interruptions. You can either fire everyone else, or build a culture where these folks can do their best work. At the very least, purchase headphones for all your employees so they can tune out their coworkers when necessary.
14. Results Only Work Environment (ROWE)
Remember in school when you’d finish the test 30 minutes before all the other kids, and you had to wait around, doing nothing for half an hour? That was terrible, wasn’t it? If you can feasibly offer a ROWE for employees who are just killing it, you’ll likely keep them for life.
15. Onsite Gym or Subsidized Membership
Subsidized gym memberships will make your team feel amazing, and this perk can cost you very little if you work with a smaller local gym.
16. No Customer Interaction
Some people hate clients, customers, and the like. Some people are just too shy to deal with them. These folks can make great employees if you know how to use them in your organization. For many with anxiety or depression, the promise that they don’t have to see people daily is an actual benefit.
17. The Ability to Watch TV While Working
We’re in the Golden Age of Television. If the job doesn’t require tremendous brain power or a distraction-free environment, turn on the tube and watch the applications roll in.
18. The Ability to Listen to Music While Working
While it seems ridiculous, many people can’t even listen to music while working. In some cases, this makes sense, but for most offices, allowing music-listening is an easy and risk-free benefit to offer.
19. The Ability to Surf Social Media While Working
You may need your employees to stay off social for good reason, but for many companies, social media bans are just power trips. Plus, allowing your employees to surf social media on the job sets them up to be brand ambassadors at your behest.
20. A Set Schedule
For the new mom, the senior student, or the grandfather who babysits on Tuesdays, a set schedule is a gift. Instead of waiting every week for the schedule to be posted, these folks can rest assured knowing they’ll be at work the same time every week.
21. A Schedule That Matches School Schedules or Daycare Schedules
How much would your workers really miss if they worked 8-3 or 12-6 instead of the typical 9-5? You may attract a giant pool of qualified workers simply by cutting a few hours off the end of the day or allowing people to start later so they can care for aging parents or get the kids off to school. Simply adjust PTO and deliverables to fit into a 30-35-hour schedule instead of a 40-hour one.
22. Discounts on Company Merchandise or Services
Unless this whole employer branding thing is a total hoax, many people are working for your company because they like your products or services. If they do, why not offer them great prices on your amazing products? Restaurants have been doing it for decades.
23. Access to the Latest Books, Games, Movies, Etc.
One of my favorite jobs was being the runner at a metro newspaper. Because the office was empty, I could feed my infant son and read the review copies of books the newspaper got for free. I spent night after night curled up with the latest book, loving my job (which paid $6.25 an hour).
24. A Company Phone
Most people use their phones for their jobs. Offer to foot the bill, and you could be one fantastic employer.
25. A Company Car
Have a lot of salespeople on staff? Company cars may be the key.
26. A Company Computer
Almost every company provides a desktop. Consider furnishing employees with tablets or laptops they can take with them wherever they go.
Some folks have the competitive drive, others don’t. Either way, offering contests is a great way to liven up the workday, attract new applicants, and recognize successful employees.
28. Pay for Performance
My husband is a stellar salesperson, but once he realized all his teammates were being compensated the same regardless of their sales figures, he kind of lost his mojo. Pay for performance, and those who want to make more will.
29. Consistent, Fun Gatherings
Every Friday, I spend about $80 on wine, cheese, and snacks. We knock off an hour early and just chat. It’s a recruiting tool, an engagement tool, a survey tool, and more all wrapped in one. If you don’t give your people time to be together, they’ll have difficulty bonding and working as a team.
30. A Recognition Program
You have the power to make people feel special, and it doesn’t have to cost anything. Giving social media shoutouts to high performers or a parking spot to the employee of the month can make a world of difference.
31. Defined Timelines and Goals
One of the most common reasons for dissatisfaction with one’s work is that the work never seems to end. If you can give your employees the opportunity to work on projects with defined beginnings and endings, you can alleviate some of this discontent.
32. Continuing Formal Education
For example, this can take the form of internal training, tuition reimbursement, or certification support.
33. Continuing Informal Education
This might be conference stipends, online courses, or book allowances.
34. Onsite Clubs
Many people cite having a good friend at work as a driver of engagement. Give employees the chance to broaden their social circles through book clubs, cooking classes, technology classes, or other fun onsite activities.
People love to learn as much as they love to teach. Not only are lunch-and-learn sessions beneficial for those in the audience, but they also allow employees to assume leadership roles and teach their coworkers something new. Lunch-and-learns can build presentation skills, transfers skills across departments, promote confidence in workers, and give people a window into other parts of the company.
36. Hiring Retirees
Retirees are an overlooked talent pool, and they can accomplish a lot more than you might think. Their extensive experience also makes them great candidates for mentorship roles.
37. Hiring Veterans
More and more companies are hiring veterans, but this is still not as common as one would hope. Veterans are disciplined, well-trained, focused, and loyal. What’s not to love?
38. Hiring LGBTQ People
It bugs me that we can even consider this a benefit, but that’s the world we live in. If you are willing to hire LGBTQ people and create a safe workspace for them, you could be miles ahead in the talent game.
39. Hiring People Without Formal Degrees
I dropped out of high school. I made it through college with two kids under the age of two. Tell me again how your important your degree is.
But it’s not just my inferiority complex talking. Many are starting to question whether college degrees are really the indicators we ought to be looking at when assessing talent.
4o. Hiring People With Gaps in Their Resumes
Life happens. Long illness? Tough divorce? Snap decision to travel the world for a year? How on earth could any of those things make you a bad employee?
41. Hiring Formerly Incarcerated People
There are thousands of smart, motivated people out there who have paid their debt to society and are ready to make a change in life. The Ban the Box movement is growing. Why not get on board now?
42. Hiring Former Stay-at-Home Moms
Stay-at-home moms are often treated poorly in the job market. This makes no sense to me: Moms are among the most organized, focused, no-nonsense workers out there. Plus, they tend to be great multitaskers.
43. Offering 20 Percent Time
Letting folks work on their own projects will promote a sense of urgency and ownership among your employees. Plus, it will show them you value their innovations.
44. A Mentoring Program
Mentors are incredibly important. Everyone needs someone to bounce ideas off of.
45. Volunteer Opportunities
Encourage your employees to volunteer together. This will build teamwork skills, create meaning in your workplace, and do some good for your community.
A version of this article originally appeared on Red Branch Media.